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Monday  July 10, 2006

There was considerable mail last Saturday and Sunday.

On Jul 7, 2006, at 9:50 PM, Jerry Pournelle wrote:

> What did you think of this ? > >

The short answer: Everything old is new again, and high time for it. But I doubt anything useful can and/or will be done. As the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once stated, "Our stupid but permanent CIA, what will we do about it, nothing."

The longer answer:

I owe a posthumous apology to Sen. Moynihan; when he called for the abolition of the CIA and its replacement with something else, I thought this was too extreme an action, as it would lead to a huge disruption in relationships with assets, sources, and agents, and that it would take years to recover, if such recovery was possible. In the event, he was right, and I was wrong (although handing all of CIA's functions over to the State Department, as Sen. Moynihan proposed, wouldn't have worked, either). As we've learned, to our shame, it seems that we've no assets, sources, and agents worthy of the name - so we've nothing to lose by burning the whole thing down and starting anew.

What the authors of this study propose is essentially a return to the 'desks'/NIO system which CIA utilized for several decades, most effectively within the Directorate of Plans (later Operations) and the Directorate of Intelligence under Walter Bedell Smith, Alan Dulles, John McCone, and Dick Helms, and which was effectively abolished in 1977 under Stansfield Turner. This study is focused on the Directorate of Intelligence, but the model advocated is essentially that of the DO during CIA's most effective years. There is both implicit and explicit criticism of the establishment of various specialized 'centers' within the Agency (this started in 1980 under Turner, continuing in the 1980s under Bill Casey with the establishment of the so-called Counterterrorist Center, and accelerated in the 1990s and 2000s under William Webster, Bob Gates, and George Tenet; I intentionally don't cite the transitional DCIs, as their impact was minimal) and the authors of the report rightly identify this fad as a major problem within the DI.

A larger problem, however, is that CIA has become an institution which simply cannot be reformed. It is full of incompetent, unimaginative bureaucrats who are hell-bent on serving as a case study for Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy - its blatant intervention in the U.S. Presidential election of 2004 on behalf of John Kerry is ample, and spectactular, proof of same. This latter episode alone is sufficient grounds for the organization's abolition, leaving aside CIA's manifest incompetence as exhibited in its pitiful work-product since the Casey years (Casey was forced to essentially set up his own 'shadow' CIA of old hands in order to get the real work done despite the official bureaucracy; he in essence recreated a small OSS within the Agency, and, thankfully, such people were still around and interested at that time).

But the two biggest problems, in my estimation, are a) that wholesale upending and re-shaping of the entire U.S. intelligence community, not just CIA, would be necessary in order to accomplish anything of this nature, and b) that this country no longer seems to produce the kind of men and women who are capable of getting things done. Where are the Allen Dulleses, the Howard Hunts, the Dick Bissells, the Miles Copelands, the Bill Harveys, the Tracy Barneses, the Frank Wisners, the Desmond Fitzgeralds, or the Ray Clines, of today? I do not believe they exist, anymore.

The report offers a useful, if in places fanciful plan ('unconstrained resources'?) for restructuring the DI. The problem is not just the DI, however, but CIA itself, as well as the larger intelligence community. Unfortunately, no one in Washington, or likely to be there in the next ten years or so, has the brains and political will to clean these Augean stables, and thus things will likely get a lot worse before they get better (if in fact they ever get better, which I increasingly doubt).

The present Administration's laughable attempts at 'intelligence reform' are a perfect example of what we can continue to expect - the appointment of singularly unsuitable candidates for DCI, DDCI, DDO, and DDI, the imposition of an overarching super-bureaucracy with a singularly unqualified 'Director of National Intelligence', and misplaced faith in the only slightly-less-incompetent DoD intelligence apparatus. The civilian and military intelligence services will continue to be overlawyered in ways which ensure operational inefficacy (think JAG lawyers arguing that Hellfire-armed Predator drones can't be used to take out obviously legitimate targets because this might somehow be construed as against the rules of engagement) and both underlawyered and amoral in ways which are both repugnant and guaranteed to provide more fodder for the Osama bin Ladens of the world (think mass abductions of various sorts of peasants with little or no intelligence value, systems of secret prisons with no recourse or appeal for the incarcerated, and institutionalized torture justified by legal sophistry of the most base kind).

-- Roland Dobbins

Everything has been said. But nobody listens.

-- Roger Shattuck


Subject: Holistic intelligence

Quick thoughts from a skim of the article at http://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/vol50no2/html_files/Holistic_Vision_5.htm . I need to read in more detail and think about it overnight, sometime, but I have housework/bills and  analysis :) to do today.

(Good news on the housework front, I now have the books on the new bookcase so that I don't have to step over them to get to it. It may be the only bookcase in the world with two different Chemical Rubber handbook editions, Goldstein's Space Sciences handbook (from the 60's, has anyone ever done something more recent on paper -- astronautix.com probably comes closest on silicon), the classic Oxford Annotated RSV Bible, Zukas's High Velocity Impact Dynamics, three handbooks/texts on chemical warfare, and the Particle Data Book, among other goodies.:)

In any event, on holistic intelligence:

1. Sounds like someone's wish list of how to structure intelligence analysis.

2. Any process concept that deals in more detail with accountability than methodology will end up with a fully documented process which is not capable of doing anything but producing timely paperwork documenting their functional inefficiency. (A corollary of Pournelle's Iron Law.)

3. "The fast-paced world of current intelligence leaves little time for careful examination of assumptions, alternatives to accepted lines of analysis, or discussion of sources and evidence." In other words, it an excuse to institutionalize not looking for any of the factors which could actually surprise us. See your discussions on Global warming.

4. "Some training specialists and senior managers argue that methodologists and tradecraft experts should be embedded with key analytic units as a way to promote analytic rigor. They believe that this approach would help mainstream the analytic techniques taught in the classroom and inculcate critical thinking skills into the day-to-day work of the unit. The success of this approach, however, depends on convincing skeptical managers and analysts that such techniques are valuable tools that should be applied routinely to their issues. " Did they just say that it is questionable whether the Analytical Unit should contain subject matter experts? And that it has been questionable in the past? No wonder we're in a mess.

It's significant that the article doesn't appear at first glance to contain one word about using intelligence either to estimate current target country technical capability (technologies employed and how broadly) or, more significantly, technical strategy and projected future technical capability (what technologies are being targeted by their intelligence agents and their researchers, and what reasonable chance exists that they could employ that technology in the future).

5. Conclusion: "The intelligence world is one of ambiguity, nuance, and complexity. Dealing with these elements is difficult in the world intelligence serves (sic), where success or failure is the uncomplicated measure by which the Intelligence Community is judged. Serious shortcomings in collection, inadequate use of outside expertise and knowledge, the lack of exploitation of open source intelligence, and the emphasis on current intelligence have been the result of well-intentioned attempts to do the best analytic job with the resources provided. ...the community must be sufficiently mature to both adapt to the changing circumstances and counteract the evolutionary processes that have conspired to threaten its reputation and its ability to successfully perform its mission. The alternative is unacceptable." In other words, the job is too hard and our current intelligent analysts are children who don't like intrusion in their playground. I THINK that's what I read.



Subject: Letter From England 

A report on our visit to Somerset is up on my weblog: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php

It's the end of the academic year--graduation is Monday--and I'm looking forward to working on my research. I've hired a post-doc, and he'll be starting in September. UK politics continues on its merry way.

Archbishop Rowan Williams on terrorism: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5162028.stm

Freedom of the press in Singapore: <http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060709/tc_afp/singaporeinternet

UK ID card program may be imploding: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/09/st_id_cards_doomed_emails/>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2261631,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2261933,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article1168249.ece

Dell in fight with UK Office of Fair Trading <http://www.theregister.com/2006/07/08/dell_oft/

Lack of science teaching in UK state schools <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1816237,00.html

A UK perspective on the US legal system <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2095-2261640,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2261765,00.html

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Chaos is Creative. I mean that literally and figuratively. Many years ago I saw an old black and white movie and the sentence prelude on the screen was:

"And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods,"

I read it with bleary eyes, watched the movie and went to sleep. To this day I can not recall the name of the movie or what it was about. But the prelude stuck in my head, for whatever reason, and it was two years later that I found it's source: The Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babbington Macaulay in his ballad and epic poem "Horatius".

I read the book once and the poem many times. I was totally captured by it. Being a bit of a poet myself, it was bound to come out sooner or later, but I made no conscience effort and wrote nothing. I never forgot those lines and found myself saying them often.

More than a decade had passed and I was still recalling those lines regularly and then one day " ONE" popped out of my pen. That is how I write. Poems just pop out of my pen in total. I don't really work on them so I don't consider myself a real poet. They just pop out. I am always surprised and usually delighted. I was thinking you might enjoy reading this and knowing how much I enjoy your Chaos Manor Musings. (I think I have my own personal muse.)


Now how can a man die better,

Than when against impossible odds;

He defends all living things

And pays tribute to his gods.

He stands alone. He looks above,

To skies whose blue is gray.

The life breath gone, he gasps for air,

Falls on his knees to pray.

His hands touch a lifeless earth,

No grass, nor grain can grow.

A broken heart that cannot mend,

A seed that cannot sow.

What will he do, where will he go

To find the life that left?

Back to the stars from whence he came,

Or to the dead seas cleft?

If only one, a difference made,

But all must live for life.

Protect, preserve all living things,

Or it will end in strife.

Our planet dead before its time

Must be the greatest sin,

For only one stood at the gate,

Against the hoard of men.


8/98 ©

My daughter and I had one of our biggest arguments over her wanting to publish my stuff and this popped out:

Leave Them Be

My poems are

A part of me.

They just weren't meant

For all to see.

To be in print,

Is not my goal.

I did not mean

To bear my soul.

To a world of those

Who do not care,

I do not want,

My words, to share.

So, let them be.

Let them stay.

Please don't give

My soul away.


3/99 ©

This stopped her from harassing me. She knows I date and copyright everything and my work reads like a diary. It's no one's business but mine. However, sometimes I choose to share , like now.

Mary Ruth Weber

Thanks. The Lays of Ancient Rome may be found on this web site. You will also find there my short essay on the importance of Macauley in education, and why and how home schoolers in particular ought to make use of The Lays of Ancient Rome in middle school.


Subject: A Boy Child's Dream Toy Shop!!


Julie Woodman



Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies to Wikipedia, too.


-- Roland Dobbins



Stossel: Stupid in America.

I'm sure this'll be taken down, soon:


- Roland Dobbins

See this before it goes away! This is terribly important.

For transcript see below


Subject: Segway drunks

>> I wonder what the penalty will be for drunk in charge of a Segway? There's no license to lose... <<

At least here in North Carolina, they'd pull the driver's license of anyone convicted of driving drunk on a Segway. People here have lost their driver's licenses for drunk driving on riding mowers, ATVs, and even bicycles. In fact, I seem to remember that one guy lost his driver's license for walking drunk.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson


Is this something like Vermin City?


-- Roland Dobbins




-- Roland Dobbins


A slightly different take on prioritizing global warming, even if it is truly going to happen.


Al Perrella


wsj Lomborg




Subject: It's WWIII?


This guy (Michael Goodwin) says it's World War III -


He complains that "the wheels are coming off the world," and says "I sound pessimistic because I am. Even worse than the problems is the fact that our political system is failing us. Democratic Party leaders want to pretend we can declare peace and everything will be fine, while President Bush is out of ideas."

He's late to the party, of course. World War III started in 1945, though its roots go back to 1917 as part of the larger Seventy Years War. Actually, I see the Seventy Years War as an extension of the French Revolution, but that's just my personal take.

WWIII blew hot and cold through the years until it ended with the proverbial whimper. Putin seems to be trying to revive it, but anything he cooks up will not be the original. That is gone.

What Goodwin identifies as WW3 is actually WW4, and it started in 1972 with PLO terrorism and an Arab boycott. By the mid-1970's it was clear to me that we were facing the beginnings of the resumption of the Great Jihad.

Now it should be obvious to everyone that the Great Jihad has resumed. Whether it is the acts of terrorists - funded by Arabs - or the stealth invasion of Western countries, it is clear that the Arab world is expanding again.

Just as the North Vietnamese learned from the Korean War not to mount a conventional invasion of a US ally (until the end game), the Arabs have learned to invade even more stealthily - with their civilians. But still, guys like Goodwin still think it's a war on terror. Yeah, right.









This week:


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Subject: Seitz says please read Victor Davis Hanson on War on National Review Online 

Dear Jerry:

This Acebiade from the Veep's Classicist in waiting is must reading for recovering National Review subscribers-

http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZmUzNDgyM2YxYWJiOGRhZjFhMWFlZjMzMWJjOWI5NzM= <http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZmUzNDgyM2YxYWJiOGRhZjFhMWFlZjMzMWJjOWI5NzM>

Russell Seitz 

Alcibiades, I suspect. No one can spell nowadays.




This week:


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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

We had problems with Adelphia yesterday. They continue today. I won't be able to update this site without a great deal of effort. I will do what I can.

Subject: Mr. Gates, Mr. Buffet, and great wealth

Dr. Pournelle:

When Warren Buffet announced his plan to give away his fortune in a philanthropic alliance with Bill Gates, it reminded me of something I believe you said about multi-generational family wealth and the conquest of space.

There are certain grand projects that as a human race we can dream about -- developing a defense against world-ending asteroid collisions, establishing a colony on Mars or on a comet or asteroid, developing space solar power -- projects that would require a serious concentration of wealth and a very long time horizon.

What is the best social institution to embark upon such projects? Government, with its vast ability to tax, but subject to the whims of the electorate and hence having a short time horizon? Corporations, less constrained by politics but tied to the discipline of profits? Wealthy individuals, their families, heirs, and trusts, subject to the whim of one or a small number of individuals, constrained in the money they can control by the inheritance tax, limited by the ability to imprint heirs with the vision of their founder, but perhaps having the longest time horizon of any of these institutions?

I would like to believe that Mr. Buffet was diligent and wise in his investment decisions that built up his fortune. If he decides to attack malaria -- that too is a grand project -- I hope he attacks malaria with the same singleness of purpose as he did building up Berkshire-Hathaway. Otherwise, the exercise of accumulating his fortune would prove to be a big waste. If the outcome of inheritance laws is that persons who accumulate great wealth give it away blindly rather than retain that wealth in families, we have lost family wealth as means for taking on any grand project, and our civilization will be poorer for it.

Paul Milenkovic Madison, Wisconsin

There are few institutions that look out for the future. The Church no longer builds cathedrals that will take a hundred years and more to complete. Great aristocratic families have been ended by death taxes.

Buffet's donations, or Gates's, would be sufficient to get us permanently into space. I have long said that the man or woman who gets the human race permanently into space will be remembered when Columbus and Isabella the Great are long forgotten.


Subject: Microsoft in Europe

Dr. Pournelle,

"The European Commission fined Microsoft $357 million for antitrust violations, saying the world's largest software maker has ignored its order to scale back its Windows monopoly. The fine, the European Union's largest ever, is only about half of what the commission had threatened to levy."

It would be interesting to see what the uproar from the European customer base would be if Microsoft refused to pay, and the Commission made their products unavailable. Other options exist in the mid to long term, but who is the bigger gorilla in the short term?


Peter Czora


Subject: Not only in Sacramento...

Dr. P,

How’s this for a rational energy policy?

Maryland utilities designated near junk

“A top Wall Street credit agency yesterday downgraded Pepco, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Delmarva Power to close to junk status, citing their inability to pass along higher energy costs in a hostile political environment. “The actions by Moody's Investors Service means the utilities' borrowing costs will jump at the same time the Maryland General Assembly is pushing them deeply into debt by forcing them to finance sharply higher wholesale energy costs they cannot pass on to their customers.” (continued)



Bill Clardy


The amazing, arrow-proof Mylodon.



-- Roland Dobbins


The Poochmobile.


--- Roland Dobbins


Bad girls on campus.


-- Roland Dobbins

Expensive, too.

"As Wolfe correctly observed, it isn't actually women who rule on campus, it's ideologically ramped-up sexual brinksmanship that rules women. Girls are behaving in ways that run counter to their instincts and self-interest to prove they are men's equals."


The Men of the North.


 ---- Roland Dobbins

In interesting web site. Very.


Subject: Transcript for John Stossel's 'Stupid in America' -

In case the "Stossel: Stupid in America" youtube page gets taken down, this appears to be a fairly complete transcript:


There are also some video links there, that I haven't looked at yet.

Stossel is about the only guy in the Old Media that I will watch. He is just such a breath of fresh air, on about any topic he takes on.

Jim Riticher



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Subject: Looks like the Marines have been reading Pournelle

Marines want a Spaceplane


"It's called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or SUSTAIN, and it's a reusable spaceplane meant to get a squad of Marines to any hotspot on Earth in two hours -- then get them out. The idea is to reinforce embattled embassies, take out terrorist leaders or defuse hostage situations before it's too late. "The Marine Corps needs [this] capability," Brig. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told Congress in 2004."

I've always thought this to be one of the most exciting concepts in your books.

Ron Booker


“We don’t find it embarrassing."


--- Roland Dobbins

On the other hand, Homeland Security doesn't find the TSA embarrassing either.


Subject: two millennia succumb to high heels and chewing gum 

Now if I were Wrigley and Nordstrom, I would see an opportunity here for sponsorship!


ATHENS, Greece - Over the centuries, they withstood the forces of wind, water and earthquakes. Today, Greece's two main ancient theaters face new threats: high heels and chewing gum.

During a pre-summer cleanup, workers removed 60 pounds of chewing gum left by spectators under seats of the Athens theater. Lefantzis said gum, which remains a problem, will be dried and pried off during the first weeks of August.

"The wet gum on the marble is hard to get off and it takes off small pieces of marble with it," he said.

Marble seating in the lower section has been damaged by high heels from more than 250,000 visitors each year.



Why globalisation isn't a win-win situation.

http://www.moneyweek.com/file/15086/why-globalisation-isnt-a-win-win- situation.html  

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: No  Segways in Berkeley

Hi Jerry, in regard to your musing in View (7/10) if there are Segways in Berkeley, not that I've seen. My wife and I go down there from our apartment in north Oakland at least a couple of times a week, and I have yet to see one on either Telegraph or Shattuck Aves. Not conclusive of course, and lord knows there may be some whizzing about on campus that I'd never see.

Oh and on the topic of LInux: you mention Xandros on Chaos Manor Reviews, and while it is pretty good, I have to chip in with a good word for Ubuntu Linux. I have done "Aunt Minnie" installations of Xandros that I later converted to Ubuntu, and they were happier with the Ubuntu. I myself have preferred it the last year plus, and that's after 10 years of desktop linux use at home, of a number of distributions. With Ubuntu, linux finally Just Works (it is the only distro I have used to ever correctly setup the various Nvidia cards I have with no manual intervention).

-David Mercer
Oakland, CA


Subject: How google does it

Dr. Pournelle,

This is fairly important. It's a compilation, summary, and analysis of the important lessons of google's IT infrastructure. It's gleaned from multiple sources since google refuses to openly discuss their core technologies, but what the authors have been able to put together is extremely interesting.


The idea that google has developed a deployable package currently equivalent to 5000 opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of storage that fits into a standard shipping container, and is dropping those wherever it can buy raw network access, is nothing short of revolutionary. Nobody else is doing this but everyone is going to have to figure it out or be left behind. This is raw computing power on an unheard of scale, and 6 billion dollars of investment funding is behind a swarming expansion of capacity.

Microsoft and AOL should feel very threatened, as this sort of thing could displace every ISP in the country overnight if google decided that they would benefit from such a move. Let's hope Google has learned from Microsoft's mistakes, and is generating it's own political special interest groups to counter the inevitable congressional interference as the buggy whip makers start spinning up this generation's resistance to inevitable technological change.

The article even mentions how the US Military would be well advised to copy Google's IT deployment methods, as they have pared it down to capacity for dollars in the best capitalistic fashion possible. In any case, the article is a great read.



Subject: r.e. Holistic Intelligence

Dear Jerry,

Me too on the last part of Roland Dobbins:

>>The civilian and military intelligence services will continue to be overlawyered in ways which ensure operational inefficacy...and both underlawyered and amoral in ways<<

And Roger Shattuck's entire letter.

>>Everything has been said. But nobody listens.<<

JW made this observation:

>>It's significant that the article doesn't appear at first glance to contain one word about using intelligence either to estimate current target country technical capability<<

This glitch arises from one 'customer' (in this case Department of Commerce and/or NSF) having too little control over what's collected and subsequentlythe analyzed. Don't worry, given sufficient time and quietude in the media headlines this glitch will recur in every other functional area. It's inevitable for a bureaucratic organization which has no operational responsibilities and has an organizational culture that says its highest purpose is producing a daily entertainment show called the Presidential Briefing.

End important comments.

The Holistic Analytical Unit:

I will concede that someplace we can afford a Gummint Team B browsing through our foreign secrets and thinking about them at leisure, without the pressure and possible bias introduced by having executive responsibility for mission results. This Team B however should not be empowered to:

"Identify intelligence requirements" "Establish collection priorities" "Manage IC funding directed against the target"

There are the reasons for prohibiting this that I mentioned before. An additional reason is that if any of these Holistic Analytical Units ever come to be headed by moles (it's conceded they will be career civil servants), we will be intentionally blinded and deceived by the enemy. There are grounds for supposing this happened before. Not every great spy gets into the history books. Concentrating such vast power in a few people guarantees the personnel wielding it will become high priority targets for foreign intelligence HUMINT efforts, and even domestic special interests like AIPAC.

The first reality is that 99.5% of useful 'intelligence' these days is obtained by exploiting the electromagnetic spectrum. We take pictures from planes and satellites, we intercept electronic impulses by a variety of methods and we read public domain material originating in the target areas. Then we convert this data into forms intelligible to machines and people. The second reality is that 90% of this material is now so real time it's applicable at strategic, operational and tactical levels. The "Holistic" proposal states an office of bureaucrats in Washington (ignore the huge mole danger for a moment) should gatekeeper 100% of the information for no greater reason than because they share a common payroll office with the people collecting the other 0.5% (HUMINT). Here is the door to institutionalized surprise.

And this suggestion: "Preside over programs sponsoring in-country research, academic exchanges, student programs, conferences, and other efforts." should only be adopted if we want to fertilize the growing world-wide perception of us as the 21st Century Evil Empire replacing the USSR. This is what the KGB did in former times. What the hell? It fits right in with the rapid Sovietization of much else in our national life, so why not?

HUMINT. This the 0.5% that is so fascinating to everyone thanks to Ian Fleming and Hollywood. It's the least reliable form of intelligence. We may end up with double agents who take our money and then lie to us. We may end up with no agents at all. Even if everything is done right this business still requires 'luck' in the form of finding willing traitors in the right places in the target area.

At this point in time we need five (5) separate HUMINT efforts. I see no desirable overlap between them. Their activities do not leverage each other in-country and therefore they should be rigidly compartmentalized. Otherwise one traitor in the local CIA Station or the Washington Holistic Analytical Unit can destroy our entire national capability in a particular country. The probability of this happening increases with the importance of the target because the target will know we are struggling with it on the 'intelligence' front, so it will start struggling with us back.

HUMINT 1. This is recruiting agents in foreign governments and organizations to tell us what the president and other powerful figures are thinking and doing. It takes years and decades to find and position such people. This activity is most successful when it's not known to be needed and impossible to accomplish when it is. It is not very responsive to increased resource inputs and not at all responsive to decision maker temper tantrums ("higher priority") and the crisis du jour for reasons mentioned above. Political pressures on a Holistic Analytical Unit to produce an image of responsiveness provides entre to people like Ahmed Chalabi. The unit doing this is best associated with the Department of State even while kept 100% subterranean.

HUMINT 2. This is creating and maintaining in-country networks of agents to support Covert Operations with local logistics and timely information of general local conditions ("Route #3 is actually impassable because..."). Covert Ops means activities like rescuing (and kidnapping) people, killing bad people, blowing up things and even sponsoring guerrilla insurgencies and coups. The policy paraphernalia of spreading modern democracy to foreign lands. Clearly the Department of Defense should operate this activity. We can add recruiting spies in foreign militaries and defense contractors to the activities engaged in by a separate branch of HU-2.

HUMINT 3. These are activities designed to leverage the National Security Agency's intercept and code-breaking efforts with local hardware placement and recruitment of local information technology spies like John Walker. Obviously the NSA should directly operate "HU-3". Of all the forms of HUMINT this activity will return the greatest return on investment for the same reason electromagnetic intelligence already yields 99% of useful secret intelligence. Q. Who was the greatest known Soviet spy of the Cold War? A. John Walker.

HUMINT 4. This group should be dedicated to going around and knowingly or unknowingly debriefing other people who recently returned from the target areas.

HUMINT 5. Foreign Counterintelligence efforts. This should be run by the FBI and aimed at obtaining agents in foreign intelligence services so we can discover who among us are traitors.

I have no idea why any Team B Holistic Analytical Unit needs any knowledge even of the existence of HU-2 or HU-5 activities in their target area. HU-2 is a policy decision approximating war. HU-5 is really directed against domestic traitors, including possible traitors in the Holistic Analytical Unit. Nor do they need any specifics about HU-1 and HU-3 beyond knowing the information is reliable. Let them operate HU-4. This will provide them some foreign travel to third countries and help satiate their Tom Cruise fantasies.

Best Wishes,



Subject: Lecturer seems to have won an argument

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

You may remember that a British lecturer was suspended for mentioning that population genetics-based studies show that different groups may have different IQ levels. He seems to be forced to take an early retirement - for claiming such an "abhorrent" thing. Using Peter Brimelow's definition - that a "racist" is someone who seems to be winning an argument over a liberal - this fellow seems to have won becasue it is now official that he is a "racist" by establismentarian standards:


Regards -- KE

It is clear that political superstition takes precedence over science. The IQ people have data. The explanation of that data needs discussion. There can be no discussion. Thus the whole matter stays below the surface, where all kinds of speculations and prejudices can be attached to the known facts -- only of course the facts aren't known to most, just some descriptions of them and interpretations and the rest.

I would have thought it better to have open debates on any subject. But clearly liberals have a different view. But then liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide.


 (Copied from View; discussion below)

Subject: Vulnerabilities Everywhere

Dr. Pournelle:

Not only is Tuesday the monthly Microsoft Patch Day to fix some vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, but there are problems in Firefox. The 1.5.04 update, released June 1, 2006, fixes 12 vulnerabilities, five are 'critical' that would allow an attacker to take control of your computer. Information on the vulns are here: http://www.mozilla.org/projects/security/known-vulnerabilities.html#firefox1.5.0.4  .

There are vulnerabilities everywhere ... Microsoft, Linux, Mac, etc. Users should remember to continually keep current on patches and updates. All software has vulnerabilities. Moving to Firefox or Unix might reduce your exposure/attack visibility, but you should not think that you are safe by using non-MS alternatives.

"Safe computing" works. Even though I run Microsoft products (Windows XP Pro, Office 2003, IE 6, etc), my continual practice of 'safe computing' has not caused my computers to be infected/'owned'.

"Safe computing is important". I tell you three times.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: Vulnerabilities everywhere

It is of course a truism that security is a process rather than a product, and that no platform is immune. However, I think it's important to point out a couple of things:

1. Microsoft products are literally several orders of magnitude less secure than Linux or OS X. For example, compared to the literally tens of thousands of Microsoft viruses loose in the wild, there are only a handful of Linux or OS X viruses in the wild. Nearly all of those require the active cooperation of the Linux or OS X user to propagate, and none of them have done so.

2. Most of the Firefox vulnerabilities and exploits to which Mr. Hellewell frequently points are platform-specific. That is, those who run Firefox on non-Windows platforms are not subject to these vulnerabilities and exploits. These so-called Firefox flaws are therefore actually flaws in Windows rather than in Firefox. The same is true for most other vulnerabilities in cross-platform open-source applications as well as commercial cross-platform applications. When an application runs on several platforms but is vulnerable to a particular exploit on only one platform, you don't blame the application. You blame the platform.

And it is the Windows platform that is to blame. Ignore bogus arguments about the frequency and severity of Windows exploits being a result of its large market share. That has nothing to do with it. Windows would suffer just as many attacks if it had only 10% of the market instead of 90%.

The fundamental problem is that Windows is easy to attack, while Linux and OS X are very difficult to attack. That's a direct result of design decisions that Microsoft made, emphasizing ease of use and ignoring security. That, and the fact that the Windows code base is a gigantic heap of tens of millions of lines of spaghetti code. It's unmaintainable.

Security can't be added on to this pile of insecure crap. The only way to secure Windows would be to start with a clean sheet of paper and write a new operating system from scratch. Microsoft isn't going to do that, so Windows is doomed to remain forever insecure.

Conversely, Linux is secure by design. That's not to say it's invulnerable, of course, but merely that it is much, much more difficult to develop a dangerous exploit against Linux, and that such exploits are almost certain to fizzle because very few Linux users routinely run as root. Even if Linux had 90% of the desktop market, the likelihood is almost zero that the types of widespread exploits that are common on Windows could ever succeed on Linux.

Barbara and I run various flavors of Linux almost exclusively. We use a router between us and the public Internet, but take no other precautions. We do not run antivirus software or malware scanners. There's no need for them if you run Linux.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson


Subject: OS Vulnerabilities

Dr Pournelle:

What Robert Bruce Thompson fails to take into consideration with his comments about Windows security vs Linux security is the target audience. Linux, whatever distro, is far from perfect in getting it to work on all manner of hardware. Some distros work better with certain video cards but fall short on network. Other distros the other way around. This makes it a problem for Aunt Minnie to get a well working Linux system. Windows on the other hand simply works so the Aunt Minnies use Windows. Aunt Minnie is not going to configure text files, find this module or that module, or do as some have suggested to me when I have a problem, recompile the kernel.

So what you have is “propeller heads” that are running Linux because they can. These people also understand security and not running as ROOT. These people know about email phishing attacks, bogus emails, etc. All the nasty things that can cause problems. So of course Linux users are not attacked as often.

Aunt Minnie on the other hand is simply running a product that works and gets the job done. She is not concerned with having signons, user privileges, secure passwords, or even that she needs to keep her system up to date.

I run Windows because it gets the job done using software that does the job. I have been running Windows for 15+ years and have yet to be compromised. I too sit behind a router as does RBT. I have anti-virus protection but have yet to have a virus detected or stopped by the anti-virus software. I could just as easily rid myself of the AV software and work just as well.

The biggest security risk is the user behind the keyboard, not the choice of OS.

Ray Thompson

Safe computing is always safer. Hmmm.

See mail below


Subject: Mexican Presidential Election

Dear Jerry,

I see where 'Conservative' Calderon claims to have beat 'Leftist' Obrador by fewer than 250,000 votes. Calderon is a member of Vincente Fox's party.

Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman endlessly assure us the many millions of Mexican illegals here are prime Republican material, despite their current demonstrated Democratic tendencies. The only requirement is the GOP must adopt more Democratic policies, such as multilingualism. Therefore, according to the Rove-Mehlman Theory of Hispanic Political Affinities, we can immediately strengthen existing 'Conservative' political forces in both countries by returning several million of Calderon's missing voters to him and building a stout fence after them.

We should start this experiment immediately. We can then assess the Rove/Mehlman Theory on the basis of experimental results from the 2008 US and 2012 US & Mexican Presidential elections, or as many of them as take place.

Best Wishes,



Subject: UK: Conservative leader's call for "understanding" for thugs backfires politically

> They want to hear how the State is going to provide
> more prison capacity so that sentencing policy is set
> by the seriousness of the crime rather than the
> availability of cells

I wonder if it would help to add "caning" to the punishment mix? It works for Singapore and it does not carry with it the huge costs of "public housing" in the form of prisons


Prior to WW II, English judges routinely meted out flogging with the cat of nine tails for crimes of violence. The result was that English burglars were famously polite; if caught in the act they'd ask for tea while waiting for the [unarmed] constable.

I think there is little of that in today's England.


Subject:  White fears stifle discussion

The reason for the monologue in biracial discussions, even when the topic is not about race.


 Hell is truth seen too late. - Thomas Hobbes


 Stifling the 'racists'

By Dennis Prager

I wonder if this is true?


Subject: Re: White fears stifle discussion

Astonishing. I would like to see more evidence though -- replication of the focus group "experiments" especially -- before I really believe it.



On Free Speech


BBC News 12 July 2006

Racism row lecturer retires early

A lecturer at the centre of a race row has retired early from his post at Leeds University.

Dr Frank Ellis sparked protests from students after he said that, on average, black people are less intelligent than white people.

He was suspended earlier this year while the university began disciplinary proceedings against him.

More than 500 students signed a petition asking for the Russian Studies lecturer to be sacked.

In a statement, the university said Dr Ellis left on 30 June.

'Abhorrent' views

It continued: "Dr Ellis was suspended on 23 March following remarks made in interviews which the university considered unacceptably racist.

"Dr Ellis, 53, retired on the same standard terms available to his colleagues.

"However, in bringing forward the retirement a year sooner than Dr Ellis wanted, the university agreed to pay him a year's salary and to make a contribution towards his legal costs."

Prior to his suspension the university said Dr Ellis' views were "abhorrent".

Dr Ellis has expressed support for the Bell Curve theory, examined in a book by Richard Hernnstein and Charles Murray, which concludes that ethnicity can play a part in IQ levels.

Labelling him a racist was "an attempt to close down any discussion" and an attack on his freedom of speech, he said.

We all know what we can't say. And bother the data, we can't discuss that.


Subject: Safe Computing

Dr. Pournelle:

In regards to my message about "Safe Computing", and Mr. Thompson's letter (in your 7/13/07 mail): My intent on urging readers to practice "safe computing" was not an attempt to get into the "my OS is more secure than your OS" discussion. Rather, it was to alert users that, no matter which OS platform or applications you use, safe computing practices can keep you out of trouble.

The security/design of Windows vs. Linux is not an issue here. Linux may be more secure for the approx 10% of users that use it, but the rest of the computing world needs to ensure that they have proper protection. That protection ('safe computing') includes installing updates for operating systems and applications. It includes being aware of practices that can cause problems, such as opening attachments, clicking on links in emails that ask for financial information (phishing), installing questionable software, web-surfing to questionable sites, etc.

Windows may be, as Mr. Thompson states, "easier to attack [than Linus or OSX]". But users can limit their risks by practicing 'safe computing'. If you are driving a car 90 mph down US Highway 1 (an often very coastal windy road right on the edge of cliffs on the Pacific Ocean), it doesn't matter the kind of car you are driving -- your unsafe driving techniques are likely to cause problems with your life force. By practicing 'safe driving' (seat belts, reasonable and proper speed and driving techniques, etc), you are more likely to survive to the next day. (Notwithstanding random occurrences such as tunnel roofs crashing on your car.)

So, I am glad that Mr. Thompson is happy with his choice of operating system. My choice of operating system, combined with 'safe computing' practices, protects me from the attacks by evil software. "Safe computing" works for my computing environment. And that's why I recommend readers practice the same.

I tell you three times.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


Subject: spaceplanes

I hate to pour cold water on the idea of Marines in spaceplanes, but:


-snip- Spaceplanes -- that is, craft that take off and land like airplanes but achieve low orbit using rocket motors -- aren't science fiction anymore. In 2004, Burt Rutan's Space Ship One snared the $10 million X-Prize by demonstrating that a relatively cheap and simple vehicle could get a man into low orbit in two stages and return him safely. -snip- (emphasis added)

Uh, no, it did NOT demonstrate any such thing. Burt Rutan's SpaceShip One demonstrated the ability to achieve Mach 3 and 60 mile-plus altitudes in a rocketplane and to then return safely to ground. The journalist author of the cited and quoted article appears to know little of what Rutan did or did NOT accomplish.

SUSTAIN is a great concept, but I think a Delta Clipper would be much better. After all, is there going to be a fifteen-thousand foot runway available near every US Embassy or hostage taking site? Not bloody likely, and, unlike a spaceplane, a Delta Clipper don't need no stinking runway! Plus the sheer terror inspired in some mob or terrorist gang by the sight of a ball of flame roaring out of the sky, as a Delta Clipper lands on the street in front of the embassy, well that would be an added bonus. After all, mobs are so much easier to control when they are running AWAY from you!


Rutan's Space Ship One had no thermal protection, and did not re-enter the atmosphere. The feathering system worked for the low speed flight regime employed, but it was engineered to win the prize, and doesn't show an clear path to orbital or even sub-orbital flight. The hybrid propulsion system is also of questionable value for missions other than straight up.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  July 14, 2006

Beheading Nations: The Islamization of Europe’s Cities.


-- Roland Dobbins


Fox anchor can't believe Israelis would take potshots at the press.

Watch this all the way through to the end:


--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Health Care and the Feds

Here is a reason the elected officials in DC aren't too concerned about health care issues...

"House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital on Thursday..."

"The Speaker's physician is requiring him to remain at the hospital over the weekend and be off his feet for at least 72 hours..."


None of those "primary care physician referrals" or co-pays or other issues which face the typical citizen for the elected aristocracy.

Charles Brumbelow

They don't much go for Social Security for retirement, either. And they all have equerries to actually carry their cash.

"There is more similarity between two Deputied [read Members of Congress] one of whom is a Communist and the other is not, than between two Communists, one of whom is a Deputy, and the other is not." Robert de Juvenal


Posturing by Politicians

"Less than two months after voting overwhelmingly to build 370 miles of new fencing along the border with Mexico, the Senate yesterday voted against providing funds to build it."


Needless to say, all those of the ruling class who are seeking to remain therein this November will brag to the peons at home about their vote for the fencing, since the peons have ridiculous concerns about porous borders.

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Inflatable spaceship

re: Petronius' story on the inflatable spacecraft.

http://www.heavens-above.com/  is a neat site which allows people to easily get predictions for visible satellite passes.

You have a couple of opportunities:

Even Petronius can see it.

The site can also predict passes for the ISS (amazingly bright) and just about any other tracked object.

...yours, Mark Hartwell


We all learn to shut up.


In re - Mr. Prager's story on the separate focus groups. It sounds too intelligent to be true of any company.

Of course, we all learn not to disagree when more privileged members of our society speak. This is why, when you really want to know what is going on, you do not interview employees with their boss present. So, of course we don't disagree when the Black Voice has spoken. I have black friends, but I am careful not to disagree with them when it comes to politics. I just shut up, which is what most of us learned long ago. Unlike Lawrence Summers, we don't pick fights we are bound to lose.

While the behavior of non-blacks is just as the article states, the bit about separate focus groups sounds like an urban legend to me. No company could get away with it, even if they did think of it. But then, Mr. Prager says that he saw the videos of the focus groups himself and had that conversation, so unless he is lying, it must be true. Amazing.


I note that no one wants to comment publicly. I don't blame them either. We all know what we can't say.


Subject: Mozilla 2.0

Dear Dr Pournelle, Mozilla's home page ( www.mozilla.org ) put out a couple of days ago the first beta of Firefox 2.0:

"Mozilla Firefox 2 Beta 1 has been released. This milestone for developers and testers includes several new features including anti-phishing, browser session restore in case of a crash, support for client-side session and persistent storage, ability to re-open accidentally closed tabs, support for JavaScript 1.7, new Windows installer based on Nullsoft Scriptable Install System, new microsummaries feature for bookmarks, new search plugin manager and better support for previewing and subscribing to web feeds."

This gives particular urgency to Mr Hellewell's note about security updates to Firefox, since Mozilla's beta software is no exception to the general rule that betas are buggy - though in deference to the developers, such bugs are usually fixed with extraordinary speed.

On the whole I'd side with Mr Thompson about Windows and Safe Computing. It's true that with a judicious choice of software one can make a Windows workstation tolerably secure. This is especially true of my favourite version (xp64) since Microsoft took the opportunity to remove access to kernel hooks from the likes of Sony's rootkit makers.

But to be judicious one must have judgment about quite technical matters; and most users, particularly the most vulnerable (rich and elderly) simply don't. It's unrealistic to expect this situation to change any time soon. No conceivable fine will persuade MS of the error of its ways, and no-one in the Linux camp seems to have an understanding of how to make the Desktop work for ordinary people. Yet: the KDE people are getting closer. Such revolutions must come from within. In the meantime, my advice to Aunt Minnie remains: buy a Mac.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics


Subject: congress and Social Security

On 07/14/06 you wrote of the Members of the United States Congress:

"They don't much go for Social Security for retirement, either."

True, though they HAVE paid into Social Security since 1983. The following from the National Tazpayer Union website:


"Since 1983 Members of Congress have been required to pay into Social Security. Like all workers, they pay 6.2% up to the first $90,000 of their earnings — the Social Security taxable maximum. Members of Congress, however, have handsome annual salaries of $162,100 and thus do not pay Social Security taxes on the $72,100 balance.

In addition, they also pay into and are covered by one of two pension systems depending upon when they were elected. They participate in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) if elected before 1984 and the Federal Employee Retirment Sytem (FERS) if elected after 1984. Each system has differing benefit formulas combining age and length in service which affects how much a specific Member's pension will pay out. According to The National Association of Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), at the end of FY 2003 there were 413 retired former Members of Congress drawing an average annual annuity of $56,484 under (CSRS) and $39,132 under (FERS)

Retired Member of Congress Billy Tauzin (LA), who stepped down as chairman of the House committee that regulates the pharmaceutical industry and became the new president and CEO of the drug industry's top lobbying group, will receive initial Congressional retirement benefits of $85,726, with lifetime benefits estimated to be $2,896,257."

If I retire at 62 I would receive $620.00 a month. Social Security I suppose by then that will get me a couple tanks of gas, unless I buy a Hummer!

Too many years of minimum wage "real jobs" while I learned my craft. As the man said, "I\m dancing as fast as I can!"



Subject: Comments on US in Middle East by an Israeli -

US Middle East Policy

Hi Jerry,

From the July 10th issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology - page 23.

From a senior Israeli defense official: "Asked what the U.S. should be doing differently in the region, one senior official frowned and shook his head. Giving advice to the U.S. only makes American officials defensive and angry and very hard to get along with, he replies. "We don't do it." But when pressed, he ventures, "Drop the idea of democratization [in the Middle East]. Democratization has brought us Hamasistan [Palestine ruled by Hamas]. If you give them the government for free, they'll take it. We prefer the Jordanian model where terrorists are coped with by the pillars of the army, intelligence, the middle class and an improving economy."

I think that's the most sane approach I've heard.



Democracy is probably the last thing we want in a Shiite nation. We had a friendly government that so far as I can see was quite good government -- certainly no more corrupt than any other in that region and less so than its then Soviet neighbors, less so than Pakistan, less so than India Permit-Raj of the time -- in the Shah. Liberal theory and Jimmy Carter got rid of him. Barbara Walters helped.

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for western civilization as it commits suicide.


Subject: In Our Hands

Charles Murray wrote:

> I have to say, this would work -- not just in theory. If this were
> implemented, it would really do all the good things I say it would
> do in the 21st century United States.

No, it wouldn't. It's the Compassionate Conservative version of Marxism. Discount the differences in terminology and Murray's plan is essentially equivalent to Marxism. It doesn't work in theory, and it wouldn't work in practice. It's based on false assumptions about how people behave.

The worst part is, Murray knows darn well his plan is based on bad assumptions. He forthrightly explains the elements of human nature that caused the failure of other attempts at social reforms like Marxism. But somehow he just doesn't grasp that he has these problems too.

. png

Hardly. Murray starts with the notion that people ought to be left alone. No version of communism or Marxism I know of does that.

I'll send him a copy of this but I do not think he will reply. But see below


Subject: Minimum Wage

Dr. Pournelle, I don't need to do a thought experiment, my 16 year old daughter is looking for a job. She doesn't want to work in fast food and has been looking for a table busing job. There is a national chain restaurant/store near her high school, she applied there and was told that there was a chance to get a hostess job but not a busing job because "all of the table bussers only speak Spanish".

Steve in the Southwest


Hi Jerry,

Is Microsoft becoming an incompetent organization ? I submit three arguments for this:

1. WGA - Windows Genuine Advantage is crashing my PC

I arrived at the office this morning to find my Pentium extreme 955 pc locked up and displaying a "This is a counterfeit version of Windows XP" in the lower right corner. I could not do anything but move the mouse around. After a few seconds of this, my pc rebooted itself. All is OK now but one wonders what the hell is going on and what happens next. BTW, I use the MSDN version of Windows XP with the 10 install limit.

2. Dos16 / Win16 apps don't work in Windows 64

Apparently Microsoft has decided that all Dos16 and Win16 apps will not be supported in Windows 64. That means that Vernon D. Buerg's excellent List program will not work. That is a crisis for old school software developers like us who have been programming on Dos / Windows for almost 30 years. Also, many older software programs have Win16 installers. Not good.

3. Vista

Massively changing user requirements and feature list. Late by 3 ? 4 ? years now. Not good.

Just thinking (and worrying) out loud,

 Lynn McGuire
Proud father of a US Marine deployed in the sandbox


Subject: security of windows

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Windows just works precisely because it has a 90% market share. Hardware that doesn't work with Windows just does not sell. If Linux had a 90% market share, everything would work with Linux as easily.



ACLU Doesn’t Want English Signs

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked officials in a Detroit suburb to reject a proposal that would require businesses with foreign language signs to add English translations.

"We write to strongly urge you to abandon the measure as unconstitutional, anti-immigrant and unnecessary," the ACLU wrote to the city Thursday in a letter that was also signed by officials with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of Michigan and Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development Inc.

&DID=6&Product_ID=1948&pr omo_code=22C3-1

In May, Sterling Heights, Mich., Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko asked the city's attorney to prepare an ordinance requiring businesses with foreign language signs to have identifiers such as "bakery" included, the Detroit News reports.<snip>

Often enough ACLU is to civil liberty as Bear Hunters are to bears. In this case, I suppose you can call this a liberty they are defending, but it seems an odd one. Regulation of business signs has long been an acknowledged power of local government.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Researchers deciphered data from Europeans' test satellite for their revolutionary Galileo system


Did these guys violate the DMCA?



Now, you know, that is one interesting question. You could certainly construe the DMCA that way. Of course you can get almost any result you want out of the DMCA.



A story of human adaptability as an

Army nurse is leaving her kids with her ex-husband's first wife as she heads to Iraq


Perhaps it should come as no surprise that two women who married the same man get along so well. Perhaps the fact that they both divorced him makes that similarity stronger.

I also think the man's suggestion that they all move to Utah is an absolutely classic example of male thought - and perhaps a clue as to why he is at least twice divorced (we haven't heard that he does or does not have other current or ex-wives).


Signs of the times. It's a war. War is the natural condition. The United States managed to close the gates of the Temple of Janus for a good part of its history, but we are now back to the normal state of mankind. And womankind.


Subject: Project Orion spacecraft

A gentleman named Rhys Taylor recently made some 3D images and a short movie about a hypothetical Orion drive spacecraft. In order to avoid destroying the launch site, the spacecraft is boosted a few miles into the air by Space Shuttle style strap on solid rocket boosters.

http://rhysy.plexersoft.com/orion/  http://www.nuclearspace.com/gallery_orion_movie.htm 

He is currently working on imagery for an alternative history project, with American and Soviet Orion drive warships engaged in combat around Jupiter. http://rhysy.plexersoft.com/Deep%20Space%20Force%20Gallery/

He talks about the project on this forum: http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=67119 

Quote: Some of you may remember my "Project Orion" animation from last year : http://rhysy.plexersoft.com/orion/  The final animation sank without trace here, but that's OK, because it was very successful elsewhere. I'm still keen on promoting the concept (giant spaceship propelled by nukes), so I'll make another one - or try to, it'll take some work to keep render times down.

This one will take the form of a space battle. In 1962 President Kennedy was shown a model of the spaceship as a last-ditch effort to keep the project alive. This abominable concept was for a ship capable of wiping out every Russian city with a population over 200,000 from orbit. Sadly the model has now been lost. Descriptions of it say it was equipped with 5 inch guns for defense, Casaba-Howitzer bombs (a directed-energy nuke), and 500 Minuteman-style 25 megaton bombs. Kennedy, like the scientists involved and any sane person, hated the idea. One year later the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed and the project was canceled.

But supposing Kennedy had, for some reason, been a warmonger ? With the opportunity of obliterating Communism he would surely have enthusiastically endorsed the project. However, it has since come to light that though the US had no knowledge of it, the Russians knew of the American program and had started their own. So had Battleship Orion gone ahead, the result would be a stalemate. The Cold War would have continued, each side continuing to build a fleet of space battleships, never risking open conflict for fear of total annihilation.

I will set the eventual battle in 2050 at Callisto, outermost of the Galilean moons of Jupiter. 2050 provides ample time for development of large ships (and I do mean large) and sophisticated space weaponry (lasers etc.) but does not lie too far outside the bounds of foreseeable advances. I chose Callisto for no real reason; I just wanted to render it.

Everything here will be physically and technologically sound. No Star Trek shields or tractor beams or spaceships performing impossible manoeuvers (with artistic concessions such as audible explosions in space). If anyone has any good links to possible space weapons it would be much appreciated.


Take care, Winchell Chung

Alas, no one was very serious about Orion in those days. Taylor and Freeman wanted to build one to go to the Moon -- they hoped to ride it -- but if there was a model of a space battleship shown to Kennedy I never heard about it, and I was the guy at a major aerospace company assigned to investigate the project. Note that I was in the warplane division, and we were the strategic analysis unit. Later when I was editor of Project 75 which examined military technology with a view to force recommendations for 1975 (the study was in 1964) and we didn't seriously consider Orion or Orion technology. I have seen a model of an Orion battleship, but this was of Michael, the ship Niven and I used in our novel Footfall. (Good novel, by the way; if you haven't read it, you might like it; it's still the best invasion of Earth by aliens novel I know of, but of course I am prejudiced).

Orion battleships and battles around Callisto are unlikely: Callisto is a very long way away. Still, it's a colorful concept, space battles for space resources.


Charles Murray Replies

Gee, I thought I had explicitly set out the ways in which my plan is consonant with human nature as it actually exists. I wonder if he read the book.

Charles Murray



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Subject: Baghdad disintegrating


Ali phoned me on Tuesday night, about 10.30pm. There were cars full of gunmen prowling his mixed neighbourhood, he said. He and his neighbours were frantically exchanging information, trying to identify the gunmen.

Were they the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia blamed for drilling holes in their victims’ eyes and limbs before executing them by the dozen? Or were they Sunni insurgents hunting down Shias to avenge last Sunday’s massacre, when Shia gunmen rampaged through an area called Jihad, pulling people from their cars and homes and shooting them in the streets?

Ali has a surname that could easily pass for Shia. His brother-in-law has an unmistakably Sunni name. They agreed that if they could determine that the gunmen were Shia, Ali would answer the door. If they were Sunnis, his brother-in-law would go.

Whoever didn’t answer the door would hide in the dog kennel on the roof.

Their Plan B was simpler: to dash 50 yards to their neighbours’ house — home to a dozen brothers. All Iraqi homes are awash with guns for self-defence in these merciless times. Together they would shoot it out with the gunmen — one of a dozen unsung Alamos now being fought nightly on Iraq’s blacked-out streets.


Neither Bush 1, nor Clinton, nor Bush the Second could resist continuing the entangling alliances and meddling in everyone's affairs after the collapse of the USSR ended the Cold War and the necessity for overseas adventuring.

We have invested billions in this game, to the neglect of developing our own resources.

I take no great pleasure in saying I told them so.  We have sown the wind. Others reap the whirlwind now, but our turn will come. Jacobinism always comes home to roost.









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